The literary tool known as mirroring helps to emphasize a particular point or idea by repeating it throughout the text. In William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare mirrors the element of foolishness to bring together three very different worlds; the romantic world of the aristocratic lovers, the workday world of the tradesmen, and the fairy world of Titania and Oberon. As result, Shakespeare creates a world of silly people acting in nonsensical fashion and it is this dreamlike behaviour, which serves as the driving force for the play.
In the Aristocratic world, it is the young teenage lovers, Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius and Helena are who are made to look foolish.
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Demetrius is a fool because he is unaware that his love changes throughout the course of the play. At the start of the play, Demetrius does not love Helena and states, “I love thee not, therefore pursue me not.” (A2, S2, L194) Instead of acting like the courtly lover, he should be, he is cruel and means to Helena. However after Demetrius is “juiced” he begins to love Helena and declares, “Lysander, keep thy Hermia; I will none. If e’er I loved her, all that love is gone. My heart to her but as guest- wise sojourned, And now to Helen is it home returned, There to remain.” This proves he is a fool because he is unaware of his changing love for Helena.
Helena is a fool because although Demetrius does not love her, she persists in chasing him in the hopes he will change his mind. Demetrius shows no love for Helena. Frustrated by Helena constant swooning Demetrius shouts, “Do I entice you? Do I speak you fair? Or rather do I not in plainest truth Tell you I do not, nor I cannot love you?” (A2, S1,L 199-201) Demetrius clearly illustrates to Helena that he has no interest in her, but Helena persists. “And even for that do I love you the more. I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius, The more you beat me, I will fawn on you.” (A2, S1,L220-222) ” This proves that Helena is a fool because she is willing to continuously pursue him even despite his boorish treatment of her.
Lysander is a fool because he persuades Hermia to risk death and run away with him. He pleads, “let me have Hermia” (A1, S1, L93) however her father will not allow it and claims that “she is mine and all my right of her I do estate unto Demetrius.” (A1, S1, L97-98) As result she is ordered by Theseus to, “take time to pause, and, by the next new moon- upon that day either prepare to die for disobedience to your father’s will Or else to wed Demetrius.” (A1, S1. L83-88) Even hearing this Lysander shows little concern for the jeopardy he has placed his love in. He is consumed by his love for Hermia that he is willing to risk her life and suggests “AII Steal forth thy father’s house tomorrow night, And in the wood, a league without the town.” (A1, S1, L164-165) Lysander is a fool because he convinces Hermia to risk death and run away with him.
Hermia is a fool because she risks her own life blindly for love without a second thought. She must marry Demetrius, or possibly face death. Egeus says, “Scornful Lysander, true, he hath my love, And what is mine my love shall render him. And she is mine, and all my right of her I do estate unto Demetrius.” (AI, S1,L 95-98) Lysander though refuses to accept this and suggests escaping to, ” to that place the sharp Athenian law cannot pursue us. If thou lovest me, then steal forth thy father’s house tomorrow night.” (A1 S1, L162-1164) Hermia agrees with the idea and vows, “My good Lysander, I swear to thee by Cupid’s strongest bow… Tomorrow truly will I meet thee ” (A1 S1, L 168,169, 179) Hermia is proven a fool because she blindly risks death for the love of Lysander without even a second thought.
Despite their supernatural nature, both Titania and Oberon, the king and queen of the ferries, can not avoid acting foolishly.
Oberon is shown to be a fool because he of his jealous nature. When Both he and Titania first appear in the play they are involved in a lovers’ quarrel. Oberon has become quite jealous and incensed over a child which Titania has “crown with flowers, and makes him all her joy.” (A1, S2, L96) The argument continues and Oberon allows himself to become so full of “fell and wrath” (A2, S1, L20) that his wife can longer stand his presence or risk some “chide if longer [she] stay.”(A2, S1, L145) Oberon then childishly remarks and will, “not from this grove. Till [he] torment thee for this injury.” (A2, S1, L 146) Oberon is thus proven foolish by his intense jealousy and his childish need for attention.
Titania is proven to be foolish when her husband Oberon makes her love the Ass like Bottom. Angry with his lover Oberon decides to, “watch Titania while she is asleep and drop the liquor in her eyes; the next thing that she waking looks upon…She shall pursue it with the soul of love.” (A2, S1, L177-182) Later in the play she is awoken by the singing of Bottom, who Puck transformed into an Ass, and remarks, “I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again. My ear is much enamoured of thy note; So is mine eye enthralled to thy shape…On the first view to say, to swear, I love thee.” (A3, S1, L137-141) Titania is proven to be a fool, as this beauty queen is unaware that she has been made to fall in love with a donkey and mocked by Oberon.
Even those who inhabit the world of the crude tradesmen cannot avoid the stigma of foolishness, as the way they take their performance so seriously and their resulting farce in the last act prove them all to be fools. The main fear of the actors is “there are things in this comedy of Pyramus and Thisby that will never please.” (A3, S1, L7-8) Foolishly, they fear that the ladies will be frightened by some of the actions, which occur during the play. To rectify this they create a prologue that clearly states, “we will do no harm with our swords and that Pyramus is not kill’d indeed,” and he is not “Pyramus, but Bottom the weaver.” (A3, S1, L18-20) The actors exhibit this foolishness again with the lion character of the play.
They worry that “the ladies be afeared of the lion.”(A3, S1 L27) and in the same fashion create “another prologue [that] must tell he is not a lion.” (A3, S1 L34) However such steps only result in the play becoming quite farcical and seeing the pathetic acting of the artisans, Hippolyta comments, “This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.” (A5, S1, L210) This unintentional farce of the actors, their poor acting ability and their constant seriousness prove them just as foolish as the other characters in the play.
“What fools these mortals be” (A3, S1 L115) is a statement made by Puck and it is echoed in Shakespeare’s mirroring of foolishness in each of the three different worlds. He creates a commonality between them and draws the characters into a greater world, a world of “lovers and madmen (who) have such seething brains, such shaping fantasies, that apprehend more than cool reason ever comprehends.” (A5, S1 L4-6) It is such foolishness that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is all about, as it is a play so absurd and full of discord that it could have very well been just a dream.
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